Museums are stocked with beautiful Egyptian artifacts, Hollywood churns out blockbusters about mummies, and Cleopatra is a legend. So why is it so hard to get kids interested in anything besides the creepy side of life in ancient Egypt? For starters, ancient Egypt is ancient history; the culture of the Pharaohs flourished between about 3000 and 31 BC, making it seem impossibly distant to many kids. One way to create a bridge to the past is to recreate some of the sights, sounds and tastes Egyptian kids might have experienced all those years ago.
The ancient Egyptians believed that preserving a body through embalming and wrapping would ensure survival in the afterlife. Of course, you’re not about to really mummify anything (although a worn-out doll would be perfect for this project!) Otherwise, you’ll need an inflated balloon, newspaper, and about one cup of flour mixed with about 2 cups of water.
- Cut the newspaper into long strips about 1 inch wide.
- Mix the flour and water until the consistency is like porridge.
- Dip 1 piece of paper at a time into the paste, let excess drip off, and lay gently over doll/balloon.
- Continue, overlapping strips of paper, until doll/balloon is completely covered. Let dry completely, then repeat if necessary.
Now it's time to bring your child's ideas into the mix. What symbols does she consider lucky? What necessities would she want to bring with her to the afterlife? Draw those on the wrapper with paint and markers.
Archeologists excavating pyramids have discovered written music and paintings of flutes, rattles, and hand-held harps. Ancient Egyptians used bronze to make cymbals and tied them together with twine; you can make them with an old tin can and some string.
- Use a can opener to completely remove both ends of a regular tin can. Cover the sharp edges completely with thick utility tape so little fingers don’t get scratched.
- Punch 1 hole in the center of each lid.
- String the tops together (leave enough length to bang together) and knot the twine through the holes.
Fun and Games
Children of ancient Egypt enjoyed “khuzza lawizza” or leapfrog, dancing, tug of war, story-telling and board games. If your child has carved wooden animals, spinning tops, or a ball filled with beads so it makes noise when thrown, he’s playing with the same kinds of toys Egyptian kids played with 5000 years ago.
So come on – fix your kid a plate of grapes, dates, figs and pomegranate seeds and settle down for an afternoon in ancient Egypt. It may have flourished 3000 years ago, but with a little imagination, it’s only as far away as your playroom.